It's Gili Trawangan ... but not as we know it!!
Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
92Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Where I stayed
Torrential rain greeted us the next morning. With our rucksacks packed and rain covers on we headed out the door to breakfast. Luckily for us the rain took a break for 5 mins giving us time to get to the restaurant before it continued its onslaught. We had an hour until the bus picked us up and the rain looked set in for the day. After breakfast we handed the key in and said our goodbyes to the staff. We waited under the driveway canopy for the bus to arrive and watched the rain. As luck would have it the rain stopped dead on half past and just as the bus pulled up, how fortunate!
The mini bus had seen better days, but as I always say to Gary there is a reason things are cheap. Our ticket to Gili Trawangan was 10,000 cheaper than anywhere else, and the reason was the bus taking us was probably not going to make it. There are a lot of hills between Senggigi and the port and the bus wheezed and shuddered up all of them, but it got us there and we arrived at the port in good time for the 10am local ferry. Saturday is the busiest day of the week, there are day trippers from Java who fill the local boats, as well as produce bought at the market and the usually beer and coke runs. They didn't seem bothered about the small group of backpackers desperate to get out the sun (which after the rain, had come out with a vengeance) and on to a boat.
Finally they squeezed us on to a local boat heading for Gili Trawangan. It was a slow and rocky journey that made me feel a bit sea sick by the end and I was glad to get off it and on to the shores of Gili T. We found some accommodation which we got quite cheap, and having dumped our bags went out to see what we could recognise from thirteen years ago.
This certainly isn't the Gili T we remember, the only thing we recognise is the town square which I have to say hasn’t changed much, and I even think the same book shop is there. There is over a hundred places to stay and almost the same amount of restaurants on the island now which have replaced the half a dozen restaurants and accommodation that we last remember. It has all been very tastefully done, some of the bungalows are gorgeous, and they look like the rooms from a holiday brochure for the Maldives. There is one road round the island and all the rooms are along this, so have beach fronts. There is a small area to the right of the pier that is called the village. This is inland and has a lot of accommodation off the beach. This is where we have moved to on our second day. Our first night was in a nice room but it attracted one too many cockroaches for our liking. Based at the end of a row of bungalows in a small garden it had large gaps under the door and an open bamboo ceiling which has never been a favourite of Gary’s. Having a wee in the night was a game of roulette on whether you found floor or crunched a roach.
Our new room is large and spacious, newly built it has a lovely bathroom and comes with a TV and DVD player. Our landlord is a strange one, funny guy that could be 20 or 40 can’t tell, always as high as a kite and calls Gary 'Boss’. He has a bag of DVD’s that he lets us help ourselves to and most of them are good copies. It’s been fun catching up on some of the great films we have missed over the last year.
It takes about 90mins to walk round the island, so we thought we would hire a couple of bikes for the day and have a ride around, nice gentle exercise. Most of our side of the island is either hard sand or concrete so easy to ride on. The other side, as we discovered, is mainly deep, soft sand. The chances of actually riding round the island were very slim, getting hot and pushing your bike round would be a better description. Still we had fun and found a couple of out of the way spots to stop for a drink and a rest.
One of the places we found on our bike trip was a series of raised platforms on the beach, with cushions on. Attached to a restaurant and a 30min walk from our room, we have made these our prime sunbathing location. We walk along the beach every morning and make camp at one of the platforms. Right on the water’s edge we can swim, snorkel and because the platform has a straw roof on I get to sit in the shade and Gary can sun in the seat on the front. The food is pretty good too and cheap. Gary’s little snappy camera is great for underwater snorkel shots, he took it out the other day to have a go and a turtle swam past.
You will have noticed I haven’t mentioned the football yet, well what can you say, England robbed as usual by a dodgy referee’s decision. We watched it in a local bar but after German scored the 4th goal we left to beat the traffic.
Talking of traffic, there is no motorised traffic allowed on this island, the only way to get around is by bike, walking or horse and cart, which charge a fortune. Gili Trawangan is known as the party island and it does have a couple of lively bars but Ibiza it’s not. There is a young crowd here and they have an area on the beach where they all hang out. It’s pretty cool actually. There are big double sunbeds in rows on the beach and club anthems drone out from the restaurant behind. This is where the beautiful people go, perfectly tanned bodies and six packs. You can also find Gary walking past most days as it is also where the majority of the topless sunbathers are found.
Wifi is not so easy to use on this island. There are a couple of internet cafe’s that do wifi but they are not cheap. Most of the fancy restaurants have wifi, but they either lock it down so you can’t actually check emails or Facebook, or their system is so slow that it times out before you can open anything. The internet cafes are ok and we are checking emails every other day via these now. It was getting expensive to go into the nice restaurants order a drink only to then find we couldn’t check emails and have to use an internet cafe anyway, spending more money.
There are a number of decent and very smart restaurants on Gili T, the food like most of S E Asia is excellent and the range is huge. We however are mainly eating from a little local restaurant in the square that does a mean chicken curry and the most delicious pumpkin curry you’ll every taste and at a quarter of the price of the main restaurants. The diet and exercise is going well, I think I have an ab!!
Check out the two video's attached. One of the Turtle sanctuary and one of Gary snorkling with a turtle.
10th July 2010
We have spent two weeks on Gili T, firstly because it is wonderful here, but the main reason is we are waiting to go to sea. We have book ourselves on to a live aboard dive boat for 8 nights and go to sea tomorrow afternoon. It’s a little expensive at £800 each for us poor backpackers but we are at the end of S E Asia now and wanted one last amaising experience. I’ll tell you more about the boat and the voyage when we get back as we have heard great things about this trip but don’t want to get ahead of ourselves yet.
In the last two weeks we have done very little, our daily routine of walking to the north end of the island and chilling on the bamboo platform before heading back to shower and change for dinner. There are two ATM’s on the island only one of them takes MasterCard. We have spent every day this week visiting the cash point to draw out 4 million Rupiah to pay for our trip, with 24.6 million to pay off, that’s a lot of trips to the bank.
We wanted to come back to Gili T to dive in the waters we first learnt, but we have since found out that the locals have blown up most of the best reefs with dynamite fishing. This also accounts for the abundance of dead coral washed up on the beaches. Action was taken to stop this but sadly most of the damage had already been done. There are about fifteen dive schools here that take boat loads of dives out every day so the diving is still good just not as wonderful as we remember it and as we have spent all our money on the live aboard trip, we are going to leave the perfect waters of Gili Trawangan to our memories.